The Week Ahead

      Wednesday, Nov. 12 -- The Federal Reserve Board's Federal Open Market Committee 
      will meet to set monetary policy for the next five weeks. All 23 economists 
      surveyed by MMS International, a unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies, expect that 
      the policymakers will hold the bank's target for the federal funds rate steady 
      at 5.5%. Moreover, almost all of the forecasters believe that the tame 
      inflation outlook and rocky financial markets will probably keep policy 
      unchanged for the rest of the year. That scenario is especially likely since 
      the problems in Asia suggest that low U.S. prices of imported goods will 
      continue to offset any domestic price pressures. The Fed last hiked rates on 
      Mar. 25, when it lifted the federal funds rate by a quarter-point.
      Thursday, Nov. 13, 10 a.m. EST -- The Labor Dept.'s preliminary reading on 
      productivity will likely show that output per hour worked in the nonfarm sector 
      grew at an annual rate of 2.8% in the third quarter. That's about the same gain 
      as in the second. That means that almost all of the increase in economic output 
      last quarter was accomplished through increased efficiency, not by expanding 
      total hours worked. As a result, unit labor costs probably grew only slightly 
      last quarter, after edging up 0.4% in the second quarter.
      Friday, Nov. 14, 8:30 a.m. EST -- The MMS survey expects that retail sales 
      increased by 0.3% in October, the same modest gain posted in September. 
      Excluding cars, retail buying likely also rose by 0.3%, on top of a 0.2% 
      advance in September.
      Friday, Nov. 14, 8:30 a.m. EST -- Producer prices of finished goods probably 
      increased just 0.1% in October. Excluding the volatile food and energy sectors, 
      core producer prices were probably also up 0.1%. The September price indexes 
      gave the financial markets a small scare. The total index rose 0.5%, while core 
      prices were up 0.4%.
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